[CnD] care of a cast iron skillet

marilyn deweese mldeweese15511 at frontier.com
Thu Feb 2 21:59:06 GMT 2012

Care and Feeding of Your Cast Iron

Cast iron lasts for years when cared for properly. It never warps or dents

and cooks well at a wide range of temperatures. It can be use to fry foods

on top of the stove or to bake in the oven. Its uniform conductivity makes

cast iron the ideal choice for slow-cooking desserts, as well as for frying

and sautés.

Cast iron skillets also add iron to our food, which many Americans lack in

their diets today. Doctors often recommend cast iron skillets for patients

who are anemic or borderline anemic (low iron levels in the blood).

The surfaces of a new cast-iron pan are porous and have microscopic jagged

peaks. It is best to season a new pan. But you might ask why would you need

to do this? By seasoning a new pan, the cooking surface develops a nonstick

quality because the formerly jagged and pitted surface becomes smooth. The

oil fills the cavities and becomes entrenched in them, as well as rounding

off the peaks. Also, because the pores are permeated with oil, water cannot

seep in and create rust that would give food an off-flavor.

The first six or seven times that you cook in your cast iron, cook foods

that are rich in natural fat or oils. Cook bacon, hamburgers (not the "lean"

kind) and sausage; fry chicken or make fried potatoes. Doing so deepens the

seasoning and enhances the pan's nonstick surface.

Wait until the pan is well seasoned before you cook some foods. These foods

include acidic foods(such as tomato-based dishes, or dishes that require

citrus juice or mustard), alkaline foods (such as beans), or anything with a

high-moisture content (such as soups or stews). Initially avoiding these

types of foods preserves your new pan's seasoning.

If you can't wait until the seasoning builds and just have to cook your


s favorite soup beans, go ahead and enjoy yourself. Just keep in

mind that you may need to re-season your pan after you use it. After your 

iron is broken in really well, you can cook just about anything in it.

If food sticks to your cast-iron pan (old or new), your pan is not seasoned

right and you need to re-season it. Cast iron is a natural non-stick

surface and if your pan is seasoned correctly it WILL NOT stick.

What is the easiest way to season a cast-iron pan? First, GENTLY scrub off

the oil coating that comes from the factory (or, if it's an older piece,

scrub off the rust <g>), warm it up a bit, and rub with a light coat of

vegetable shortening. Bake at 250-300 F for a couple of hours. Repeat if 

Don't panic when it turns black! It's not dirty, it's just forming a good

non-stick surface. Treat it properly, and after a number of uses and

seasonings, the inside finish will appear almost glassy and it'll be as good 

Teflon, Silverstone, etc, but without the toxic fumes that they can put out 

high temperatures.

If your old or new cast iron pans are really bad, hand-sand them until

smooth and remove the burnt coating and rust. Then season the pans.

You should never put soap in a cast iron skillet to clean it. It will take

off the coating. To repair and season such a skillet, rub the dry skillet

with a thick layer of shortening or preferably lard (or even bacon grease),

then place in a preheated 250 F. oven (one with a pilot light) for several

hours, at least two-three. The shortening will melt "into" the skillet, and

foods won't stick. (Animal fats produce the best coatings on these 

More fat may be added as needed. Don't use a liquid vegetable oil because

it will leave a sticky surface and the pan will not be properly seasoned.

Once cast iron is thoroughly seasoned, just wipe it out while still warm

with a paper towel or, if it's dirtier, quickly clean with warm soapy water

and dry immediately. (I stick mine on a burner or in the oven to dry off. 

can lightly re-season it at the same time, too, just wipe it with an oiled

paper towel.)

When cleaning, heat the pan first to a temperature that is still safe to

touch - this helps open the pores of the metal and makes it easier to clean.

Give skillets a quick rinse under hot water, scrubbing with a plastic pad.

If you have crusted meat or burned sugar to contend with, soak the pan until

the food is loosened, giving it an occasional scrub. You can also soak in a

solution of 3 tablespoons of washing soda or baking soda per 1 quart of

water to remove burned on food or grease.

Remove a stubborn spot with a flat plastic or wooden scraper. Do not

routinely use a non-plastic scouring pad (like a Brillo pad) or wire brush 
as they

will break down the pan's seasoning. An abrasive pad cuts into the seasoned

surface and can cause permanent scratches and scarring. A wire brush will

scrub off your seasoning, and then you'll have to start over again. Shake 

the water, put the skillet on the range burner over medium-high heat long

enough to dry completely. That will prevent rust.

ONLY as a last result, rust may be scoured with fine steel wool or scouring

powder but re-seasoning of the utensil is NECESSARY.

Some people say you should stick a dirty cast-iron pan in fire and let the

fire burn off the residue. Only one problem: cast-iron will crack and warp

easily, and even break when you do this. Two other methods to avoid are

using your self-cleaning oven. Although this is not as great a risk as 

it in a fire, the intense heat of a self-cleaning can warp a skillet. There

is also a risk of warping the piece.

Sandblasting is the carnal sin for collectors. Sand blasting destroys the

patina making the piece a dull gray color. Most collectors will not buy a

piece that has been sand blasted. Sandblasting will ruin the look of the 

and can destroy markings that help to identify and date the cookware.

Afterwards, this technique will require a LOT of re-seasoning and may never 

the same.

Among other recommendations I would avoid as much as possible are using an

acidic ingredient such as white vinegar, lemon juice, baking soda, cream of

tartar, salt or naval jelly. Okay, they can indeed remove rust (as long as

you use one of them with a lot of elbow grease <G>), BUT, unfortunately, 

method strips the metal down to a very light gray color, requiring a LOT of


BTW, DO NOT put cast iron in the dishwasher. It's not a pretty sight. Your

non-stick finish will go away and your pot or skillet will likely rust and


Unless you use your cast-iron pans daily, they should be washed briefly

with a little soapy water and then rinsed and thoroughly dried in order to 

them of excess surface oil. If you do not do this, the surplus oil will

become rancid within a couple of days.

Depending on the condition of your pan, after the pans are dry give them a

light coat of oil to keep away the rust and then place in the cupboard.

If your food gets a metallic taste, or turns "black", it means one of two

things are wrong. Either your pot has not been sufficiently seasoned, or you

are leaving the food in the pot after it has been cooked. Never store food

in the cast iron pan as the acid in the food will breakdown the seasoning 

take on a metallic flavor. Iron being a reactive metal, it has

disadvantages in that acidic foods (such as tomatoes, apple, vinegar) should 


cooked in it for any length of time.

Store your cast iron cookware with the lids off, especially in humid

weather, because if covered, moisture can build up and cause rust. If you 
need to

place another pan on top of one, place a paper towel between them. This will

make sure that any moisture that forms will be absorbed by the paper towel.

The best way to store them is to hang them from a pan rack.

It's not a good idea to use cast-iron pans on a flat-top stove. They will

not conduct heat right - and will scar the surface of the stove (if there is

any uneven or spur-like seasoning on the outside or buildup of carbon


When cooking, use only plastic or wood-cooking utensils to keep scratches

on your cookware to a minimum. Never put a cold pan on a hot burner, or cold

liquid in a hot pan. If you do, you run the risk of shocking your cast

iron to the breaking point, literally. Let your pan heat up as the burner 

up, and if you have to add water to a hot pan, make sure that the water is

warm or hot. (The same rule applies when you clean cast iron.) Cast iron,

being the most brittle of all metal cookware, is more likely to break;

aluminum cookware is more likely to warp. Whether the result of thermal 
shock is


broken or warped pan, the outcome is the same: a pan that's no good for

cooking anymore.

Before you cook with cast-iron cake pans, corn-stick pans, muffin pans, and

other bakeware, you may need to oil them.

One last thing: When frying, heat the skillet FIRST. Then add the oil,

bring it up to heat. Finally add the food you are frying. If you add the 
food to

a cold skillet or cold oil, it will stick to the pan.

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Bill Deatherage" <billd at insightbb.com>
To: <cookinginthedark at acbradio.org>
Sent: Thursday, February 02, 2012 3:48 PM
Subject: [CnD] care of a cast iron skillet

> Hello,
> I got a cast iron skillet several months ago. I am not sure if I seasoned 
> it correctly but, some one told me there is some places in the bottom 
> where ithe color is lighter than others.  could it be because of not being 
> properly seasoned?  also, there was a rust spot in it and my mother-in-law 
> cleaned it out.  I was wondering what I can do to keep it from having rust 
> spots?
> Thank you in advance.
> Bill Deatherage
> _______________________________________________
> Cookinginthedark mailing list
> Cookinginthedark at acbradio.org
> http://acbradio.org/mailman/listinfo/cookinginthedark 

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